Jibneh is the Arabic word for cheese. As many of you know, Charming is a talented and dedicated chef. He enjoys challenges like trying a new recipe or cooking an unfamiliar vegetable. I've enjoyed the results of his dairy explorations and think it only fair that we share his forays into fromage with you. -GPH
How to Make Jibneh by Prince Charming
I originally started making cheese in Palestine because Cheddar costs a fortune. I did not think that Cheddar would be hard to make, but that it would simply take a lot of time. I was wrong; it is hard to make. I found out, however that another thing I miss from home (which costs more than it should in America) is very easy to make. Basic white cheese. Also called full cream ricotta. Or queso blanco. Or paneer. Or Farmer’s Cheese, Cottage Cheese. Or, in Palestine, Jibneh.I also started making cheese in Palestine because we moved into an awesome apartment above La Vie Cafe in Ramallah. Our neighbors own the cafe and their love of DIY fit in pretty well with the way my wife and I want to live. It’s inspiring. The fact that they rave about everything I make doesn’t hurt.I wake up early for work, usually around 5am. I like watching the sunrise, and it's a good way to remind myself that I want to skip hangovers when we’re drinking cocktails at the cafe downstairs in the evening. The habit, however, is hard to break on the weekends, and I am usually lucky if I can sleep until 6am. To kill time until Genevieve wakes up I usually do something in the kitchen -- bread or cheese for the most part. Sometimes butter. I have mustard marinating right now too.
Simple White Cheese
A pot, 2 liters of cow milk, lemon juice or white vinegar, salt, cheesecloth. If you don’t have cheesecloth a clean cotton t-shirt or pillowcase cut up into a square will do. If you want to press the cheese, you'll need a carton (such as a cleaned out ice cream carton) with small holes sliced into it for the liquid to drain.
- Heat two liters of milk in a pot until it is almost too hot to put you finger in. Don’t let it boil. turn off the heat.
- Immediately add ¼ cup (125 grams or so) of white vinegar or the juice of half a lemon, mix.
- Let sit for 20 minutes until the curd and whey have separated (when you see white chunks of cheese floating in yellowish liquid, it is done)
- Strain this through a cheesecloth. I usually tie this to my kitchen faucet and let it drain overnight, but if you want to eat it immediately just ball the cheese in the cloth and press it until most of the whey is out.
- Add a couple pinches of salt and mix.
- If you want paneer or queso blanco, you can press the cheese slightly using heavy cans or jars set on top of the cheese in a carton. Here is how it looks pressed:
If you want classic American cottage cheese, mix it with a bit of cream only without pressing. Otherwise, I usually mix it with spices of some kind, cream, and put it through the food processor. It is particularly good mixed with lemon pepper, jalapenos, or zataar (Genevieve's favorite).Alternatively you can add it to pastry, or you can use it to make lasagna.Serve with olives, olive oil, zataar, or whatever else you want.
Sawtain! (Double Health = Bon Appetit!) *** Al albak (right back atcha -- literally "to your heart") Prince Charming